The Ex List's Elizabeth Reaser is finally playing someone fun. If only she could loosen up.
Poor Elizabeth Reaser. She says she’s “neurotic.” Claims she’s “old and crusty.” (She’s 33.) She’s jealous of people who have a good time.
Maybe being the adorable star of the smart, unconventional and charming Ex List will change that.
Reaser, best known for her role as Rebecca/Ava on Grey’s Anatomy, takes a walk on the lighter side with The Ex List, a romantic comedy of sorts. She’s Bella, a thirtysomething flower-store owner who’s sailing right along until a psychic (to whom she’s dragged as part of a bachelorette party) tells her she’s already met, and dated, her Mr. Right. Now, says the otherwise accurate psychic, Bella needs to find him again within the next year, or she’ll be doomed to spend the rest of her life alone.
It’s an odd premise, but the show works thanks in large part to Reaser’s warm, endearing performance. That, and its creator–head writer is Diane Ruggiero, a Veronica Mars alum responsible for some of that show’s sharpest zingers. That sensibility is center stage here, and it keeps The Ex List from seeming overly precious or gimmicky: “The absolute worst word you can use to describe a guy is what?” one of Bella’s friends asks her.
“She’s very together,” Reaser says of Bella. “She’s independent, she’s financially independent, she has things she likes—she’s a happy person. Which I guess is rare.” That already-present happiness keeps The Ex List from being yet another story about a nutjob crazylady in dire need of a sane-making man; if anything, Bella’s taste in menfolk is the craziest thing about her. (Eric Balfour, TV’s go-to bad boyfriend from Six Feet Under, The OC and 24, plays an ex on the pilot.)
“She may have a little commitment phobia,” Reaser admits, which is what gives the show its season arc: Bella goes through her list of exes, trying to figure out which former flame is her guy. In the first episode, we meet three exes; at a press conference about the show this summer, some critics called Bella slutty. “She’s boy-crazy,” sure, “but it’s normal to see a man do that on TV or in the movies,” she says. “I don’t think that’s slutty at all,” Reaser adds and then laughs. “Maybe that says more about me than about her.”
So, while we’re on the topic…surely Reaser has had at least a few love-’em-and-leave-’em moments, or at least a bad breakup or two? “I’ve definitely gotten my heart broken, but I’ve always gotten something out of it,” she demurs. Oh, like learning about yourself, emerging a stronger person, finding strength you didn’t know you had? “Like [an ex] introduced me to A Tribe Called Quest.” And that was worth the heartbreak? “Well…I love that song ‘Vibes and Stuff.’ So I think it actually was.”
Reaser then goes on about her character—Bella’s so fun, so liberated, Reaser wishes she could be like her. So you just don’t have any fun? “No, I have a good time,” she backpedals. “I just feel like [Bella’s] a little…she’s not like a crazy actress. She goes surfing, she’s into plants and stuff, and boys. She’s having this great life.”
You could at least surf, right?
“I just started taking lessons!” she gushes. “It’s great.” Maybe that Bella-style happiness isn’t too far behind.
The Ex List debuts October 3 at 8pm on CBS.
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